Charles Dickens beautifully incorporates the use of many literary devices, irony, allusions, tone, point of view, and many others. He develops the story around a young French woman, Lucie Manette, who has just found her father, Dr. Manette. Dickens uses situations around Lucie and her Father, to integrate the device of irony, which in some cases just turns out to be a coincidence. So many times irony is confused with coincidence, to illustrate the difference here are a few examples.
Take a look at the fact that Mr. Lorry is “on business” to tell Miss Manette her father is alive and well, and yet he was the person who brought her, as a very young child, to England from France, after her father was wrongfully imprisoned. Is this an ironic situation, or merely a coincidence? A coincidence. Mr. Lorry was Dr. Manette’s good friend and banker for years; he was a loyal man and took his business seriously. He, of all people, should have told Miss Manette her father was alive. When he brought Lucie as a young child to England, he was only doing a favour for a good friend. Mr. Lorry proves himself as not only a man of business but also a man of favours. He helps Darnay acquire a job at Tellison’s bank, and he helps the Manette family escape from France at the end of the novel.
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It is not ironic that Mr. Lorry tells Lucie her father is alive, it is a plain coincidence.
Why do Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton have such a strong resemblance? Now, one might look too deep into this circumstance, and as a consequence say, Charles’ father and uncle were twins, so, therefore, Darnay and Carton must be long lost, twins. Hypothetically speaking, it could happen, but this is not Dickens’s intent. In the beginning, at the first trial, Carton’s resemblance disturbs the witness’s testimony and allows Darnay to go free. Up to this point, this is only a coincidence, but as the story goes forward Carton befriends Lucie, falls in love with her, without her love in return, and Darnay courts then marry Lucie.
In the course of time, Darnay returns to prison and trial, and this time is not set free. This is the point where it becomes ironic. It is not ironic that Carton and Darnay look alike, and they love the same woman, but the fact that only one of them will die for the love they have for Lucie. Carton ironically is not married to Lucie but loves her so much that he courageously trades places with Darnay, sets him free, and makes Lucie happy. Coincidence and irony sometimes go hand in hand.
A truly ironic incident in this novel is near the end. Dr. Manette was kept in the Bastille for eighteen years prior to the book’s beginning and while in the prison, Dr. Manette writes about his encounter with the aristocratic family of the Evremonde’s. In this letter, he makes known that he basically finds the family insufferable because they wrongly put him in jail. He describes every word that was said, every action, and every motive he perceived. But ironically, instead of being helpful in the freeing of himself, it was used in the condemnation of his only daughter’s husband, which was of the house of Evremonde. Ironic isn’t it?
Irony and coincidence, whichever was implied in a specific situation, were masterfully integrated into the work of Charles Dickens. Through characters and settings, from Mr. Lorry to Miss Manette, from France and England to the Bastille, the irony and coincidence is beautiful. Sometimes what seems to be irony may only be a coincidence.
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